"Treehouse of Horror IV"
The Simpsons episode
The Devil, in the form of Ned Flanders, appearing at Homer's work station after he says that he would sell his soul for a donut.
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 5
Directed byDavid Silverman
Written byWraparounds:
Conan O'Brien
The Devil and Homer Simpson:
Greg Daniels
Dan McGrath
Terror at 5+12 Feet:
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Bart Simpson's Dracula:
Bill Canterbury
Production code1F04
Original air dateOctober 28, 1993 (1993-10-28)
Guest appearances
Episode features
Couch gagThe family (as zombies) enter through the living room floor before sitting on the couch.
CommentaryMatt Groening
James L. Brooks
David Mirkin
Conan O'Brien
Greg Daniels
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
David Silverman
Episode chronology
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"Marge on the Lam"
The Simpsons (season 5)
List of episodes

"Treehouse of Horror IV" is the fifth episode of the fifth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons and the fourth episode in the Treehouse of Horror series of Halloween specials. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 28, 1993,[1] and features three short stories called "The Devil and Homer Simpson", "Terror at 5+12 Feet", and "Bart Simpson's Dracula".

The episode was co-written by Conan O'Brien, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, and Bill Canterbury, and directed by David Silverman. As with the rest of the Halloween specials, the episode is considered non-canon and falls outside the show's regular continuity. The episode makes cultural references to television series such as The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and Peanuts, as well as films such as The Devil and Daniel Webster, Bram Stoker's Dracula and The Lost Boys. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 14.5, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.


In the wraparound, Bart introduces each of the three segments by walking through a gallery of paintings and each time choosing one of them as the focus of his story.

In "The Devil and Homer Simpson", Homer sells his soul to the devil, who takes the form of Ned Flanders, for a donut. After Marge and Lisa plead with Ned, he agrees to put Homer on trial. At the trial, Marge saves Homer from being sent to Hell by displaying a photo from their wedding day. On the back of the photo, Homer has written that, in return for Marge giving him her hand in marriage, he pledges his soul to her forever; therefore, it was not his property to sell at the time of his deal with Ned. The case is dismissed, and Ned frees Homer, but Ned gets his revenge by turning Homer's head into a donut.

In "Terror at 5+12 Feet", Bart tries to warn the passengers on the school bus that a gremlin is loosening the lug nuts on one of the wheels, but nobody can see the gremlin. In desperation, Bart climbs halfway out the window to scare off the gremlin with an emergency flare. As Bart is pulled back into the bus by Principal Skinner and Groundskeeper Willie, he drops the flare on the gremlin, who catches fire and falls from the bus, but is found by Ned. Even though everyone sees the damage when they make it to school, Bart is sent to a psychiatric hospital for his disruptive behavior. Bart is relieved as he is finally able to rest, but is once again petrified when the gremlin appears in the back window of the ambulance, holding Ned's severed head.

In "Bart Simpson's Dracula", the Simpson family is invited to Mr. Burns' castle in Pennsylvania for a midnight feast. Bart and Lisa discover a secret staircase descending to a basement with coffins. Vampires emerge from the coffins and encircle them while Lisa reads through Burns' autobiography Yes, I Am a Vampire. Lisa escapes and tries to warn her parents that Burns has bitten Bart, but Homer and Marge pay little attention until Bart tries to bite Lisa later that night. Homer drives a stake through Burns' heart, and kills him, as Lisa believes doing so will restore Bart. The next morning, Lisa discovers that everyone else in the Simpson family is a vampire, with Marge as their head. The family breaks character and wishes the audience a happy Halloween; they then begin humming "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing".


In all Simpsons Treehouse of Horror shows, the names on the credits include middle name nicknames, in quotation marks, which reflect some association with Halloween or horror.

Uniquely in this episode, Conan O'Brien's credits all reference his new role as host of Late Night with Conan O'Brien, including one credit which says "Watch My Show" as his "middle" name. O'Brien had just begun his tenure on September 13, 1993, roughly a month before the 1993 Treehouse of Horror episode aired.


Conan O'Brien was one of the writers of the episode.

"Treehouse of Horror IV" was directed by David Silverman and co-written by Conan O'Brien (his final assignment for The Simpsons; by the time this episode aired, his brand-new late night show on NBC had been on for a little over a month), Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Greg Daniels, Dan McGrath, and Bill Canterbury. It is the fourth episode of the annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween specials.[1] As with the rest of the Halloween specials, the episode is considered non-canon and falls outside the show's regular continuity. O'Brien worked on the "wrap-arounds" of Bart introducing each segment to make sure that they "pulled" the episode together.[2] The wrap-arounds are based on Rod Serling's television series Night Gallery, in which Serling appears at an art gallery and introduces each episode by unveiling paintings depicting the stories. Executive producer James L. Brooks loved the show, so it was "great fun" for him to do the parody.[3] Show runner David Mirkin thought the Treehouse of Horror episodes were the hardest episodes to do because the staff had to fit in all three stories in only 22 minutes. Mirkin said, "Things had to happen really fast. They're really just crammed with jokes and story beats and everything."[4]

The first segment, "The Devil and Homer Simpson", was written by Daniels and McGrath.[5] The first time Devil Flanders appears, he looks the same as the devil Chernabog from the 1940 Walt Disney produced film Fantasia; Silverman particularly admired the animation in that sequence.[6] Oakley loved the idea of Flanders being the Devil because he was the character whom viewers would least expect. He also thought Harry Shearer did a good job of playing Flanders in a much darker way, while remaining very true to the character.[7] Many scenes had to be cut to shorten the segment, including one that showed Homer's severed head being used as a bowling ball by a demon in hell. This scene later appeared in the clip show episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", which aired in the show's seventh season.[4]

The second segment, "Terror at 5+12 Feet", was written by Oakley and Weinstein. It was inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone called "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet", in which William Shatner's character is inside an airplane watching a gremlin tear apart the wing. Silverman watched the episode to get inspiration for Bart's facial expressions.[6] Oakley said there was a lot of work put into the design of the gremlin in "Terror at 5+12 Feet" to make him scary "within The Simpsons universe".[7] Mirkin said he felt the gremlin was well-done because he looked scary and "yet it looks like a completely organic Simpsons character". Üter, a character from Germany, makes his first appearance on the show in this segment; he was conceived as a one-time joke, but reappeared in later episodes because Mirkin felt he was "such a perfect stereotype".[4]

The third segment, "Bart Simpson's Dracula", was written by Canterbury. It is based on Francis Ford Coppola's film Bram Stoker's Dracula. Mirkin was a big fan of the film and pushed for a segment about vampires inspired by the movie. He liked the final result and felt Mr. Burns was perfect in the role of Dracula.[4] Dracula and his castle were designed by Silverman. Mirkin, a "big" Peanuts fan, came up with the idea for the ending of "Bart Simpson's Dracula".[6]

Cultural references

The wrap-around segments are a reference to Rod Serling's television series Night Gallery.[8] The paintings seen in these segments are parodies of well-known works, including The Scream, The Son of Man, The Death of Marat, The Persistence of Memory, Three Musicians and Ascending and Descending, all featuring members of the Simpson family.

"Terror at 5+12 Feet" is a parody of the final segment seen in Twilight Zone: The Movie and The Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet".[1] The title and a majority of the plot of "Bart Simpson's Dracula" is a parody of the Francis Ford Coppola film Bram Stoker's Dracula.[1] The ending is a reference to A Charlie Brown Christmas.[8]

The demon who is feeding Homer donuts says: "I don't understand it. James Coco went mad in fifteen minutes!",[9] referencing an actor who received attention for his culinary talents and best-selling cookbooks.[10] The jury at Homer's trial consists of John Wilkes Booth, Lizzie Borden, John Dillinger, Blackbeard, Benedict Arnold, the starting lineup of the 1976 Philadelphia Flyers, and Richard Nixon (who points out that he is not yet dead).[a][1] The first time the Devil appears, he resembles the demon Chernabog from the Walt Disney film Fantasia,[5] especially after Homer discovers a technicality and starts taunting the Devil that he's "smarter than the devil", until the Devil turns into the Chernabog-esque demon and glares at him before disappearing. The scene in Hell where Homer is fed all the doughnuts in the world, and asks for more, is a direct parody of the cartoon Pigs is Pigs, in which the character Piggy (known for being a glutton) is taken in by a scientist and forced to eat all the food in the world.[6] In the school bus, Martin wears a shirt reading Wang Computers. At Mr. Burns' castle, Lisa notices a tome resting on a stand in the basement. She runs over and reads the title: "Yes, I Am a Vampire, by Monty Burns. Foreword by Steve Allen," a reference to American actor Steve Allen.[4] Shortly after she finds the tome, she makes allusions to Shemp and Curly Howard of the Three Stooges, mistaking Bart's fearful attempts at getting her attention as impressions of the two. Bart floating outside Lisa's bedroom window is a parody of The Lost Boys as well as Stephen King's novel Salem's Lot. The family's plan to kill the head vampire is also a reference to both the film and novel. In particular, the twist revelation that Burns is not the head vampire is also a reference to the twist ending of The Lost Boys.[6] The closing credits of the episode features a version of the Simpsons theme that is a combination of the instruments used in The Munsters theme song and the harpsichord and clicking from The Addams Family theme song.[4]


Critical reception

Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said the episode included many notable sequences and was "probably the best" Treehouse of Horror episode. They particularly liked the scenes in Hell where Homer is punished by the Devil, and Chief Wiggum's attempts to deal with Dracula (who he thinks is a mummy) in the "Bart Simpson's Dracula" segment by ordering the Egyptian wing of the Springfield museum to be destroyed.[8] DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson thought "Terror at 5+12 Feet" was the best segment of the episode. Jacobson praised "The Devil and Homer Simpson" as clever funny, and described "Bart Simpson's Dracula" as "easily the least effective", claiming it, "presents some good moments but never quite takes flight".[11] Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict gave the episode an A grade and called it "one of the very best" Halloween specials, although said "Treehouse of Horror V" was better.[12] Central Michigan Life's John Thorpe named it the tenth best episode of the series, and wrote: "The best part comes when Homer decides not to eat the last part of the doughnut, thus saving him from hell. Hilarious."[13] DVD Talk's Bill Gibron gave the episode a 4 out of 5 score.[14]

Kim Nowacki of Yakima Herald-Republic named "Treehouse of Horror IV" her "all-time favorite" episode. She praised the parodies of The Twilight Zone and A Charlie Brown Christmas.[15] The episode's reference to Bram Stoker's Dracula was named the 32nd greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.[16] James Whitbrook of Gizmodo called "Bart Simpson's Dracula" the "best sketch in what is the best Treehouse of Horror."[17]


In its original American broadcast, "Treehouse of Horror IV" finished 17th in the ratings for the week of October 25 to October 31, 1993, with a Nielsen rating of 14.5, translating to 13.6 million households. The episode was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.[18]


  1. ^ In real life, Nixon died 5 months after this episode aired.
  1. ^ a b c d e Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. pp. 124–125. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
  2. ^ O'Brien, Conan (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  3. ^ Brooks L., James (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Mirkin, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ a b Daniels, Greg (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ a b c d e Silverman, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ a b Oakley, Bill (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  8. ^ a b c Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Treehouse of Horror IV". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
  9. ^ ‘Treehouse of Horror IV’ script Archived 2021-06-19 at the Wayback Machine, Simpson Crazy.
  10. ^ The Simpsons offers Homer Donut Hell, Fried Donut Ho
  11. ^ Jacobson, Colin (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  12. ^ Bromley, Patrick (2005-02-23). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on 2009-01-16. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  13. ^ Thorpe, John (November 15, 2000). "Top 10 Simpson's episodes ever". Central Michigan Life. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved 2008-12-21.
  14. ^ Gibron, Bill (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons — The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  15. ^ Nowacki, Kim (October 15, 2004). "Howl of Fame — Dedicated to the Younger Set". Yakima Herald-Republic.
  16. ^ Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. GamesRadar. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  17. ^ Whitbrook, James (October 30, 2019). "Bart Simpson's Dracula Is the Best Treehouse of Horror Sketch, It Just Is". Gizmodo. Retrieved January 16, 2022.
  18. ^ Moore, Frazier (November 4, 1993). "Prime-Time TV Ratings". Rocky Mountain News. p. 18D.